Abolishing laws that suspended the licences of those charged with impaired driving will not make the road any more dangerous, the CEO of Mothers Against Drunk Driving says.
"Sometimes governments, rather than thinking smart about how to deter impaired drivers, they think about getting tough," Andrew Murie said in an interview Friday with CBC Radio's Edmonton AM. "And these are the types of decisions that the courts usually throw out because it's not really serving a purpose.
"You should not focus on punishment, but rather [on] deterrents and rehabilitation and the piece that the courts struck down is one we viewed as more of a punishment."
Prevention or punishment?
On Thursday, the Alberta Court of Appeal struck down a section of Alberta's Traffic Safety Act that allowed immediate and mandatory licence suspension for anyone facing impaired driving charges.
In a split decision, the court ruled the legislation violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms by ignoring the presumption of innocence and the right to a fair trial.
The contentious legislation did little to prevent impaired driving, Murie said. MADD advocates would have preferred to see Alberta follow the B.C. model, which relies more heavily on immediate vehicle impounds, mandatory rehabilitation programs and the installation of in-vehicle breathalyzer devices like ignition interlock.
That kind of legislation is more effective in keeping impaired drivers off the road and rehabilitating repeat offenders, Murie said.
"It's highly unlikely that law would have been struck down and it would have prevented any of these people who are driving suspended from driving impaired," said Murie.
"Alberta was the only province instituting this legislation … and I don't think anyone is lining up to do the same."
Even though the law has been declared unconstitutional, it will remain in place for one year to give the government time to change it or ask for the issue to be heard by the Supreme Court of Canada.
Victim's mother hopes for appeal
The government has until mid-August to decide if it will ask the Supreme Court to hear the case.
The mother of a victim of impaired driving is hoping the province will do so.
In 2011, Sheri Arsenault's son Bradley Arsenault and two his friends were killed when their car was struck by an impaired driver near Beaumont, south of Edmonton.
"I have faith that our government will take this all the way to the Supreme Court," Arsenault said. "There are very few Albertans out there who would even suggest that Alberta's drunk driving laws are too strict or unfair.
"It's quite obvious that this law is meant to act as a deterrent and it serves to protect the public, your children, all our loved ones. And the government's main role is public safety."
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